Why most New Year's resolutions fail and how to make them stick.

Want to make this year different? Our health coaching experts dive into the common reasons New Year's resolutions fall by the wayside and give you a simple strategy for success.

Written by

Carmen Camargo BSc

health coach

Medical review by

Dr Claire Merrifield MBBS MRCGP PhD

GP, PhD and our medical director


Key Takeaways

  • Only 1-in-5 of us keep our New Year's resolutions for the long-term.
  • Common reasons include - trying to change too much, too fast; setting unrealistic expectations; forgetting to enjoy yourself; and focussing on the end result rather than the process.
  • Selph's simple strategy for success - identify your core values; commit to small daily actions; cultivate a growth mindset; be mindful and stay present during your journey; and celebrate your wins, no matter how small.

As we step into a brand-new year, there's this wonderful buzz in the air, filled with hopes for change and self-improvement. We hold our resolutions for the New Year close to our chest, because most of us have been burned before.

But this year will be different - hopefully. Research shows that only around 1-in-5 of us keep our resolutions for the long-term and most will have ‘given-up’ after only a month1. What’s more, although more than half of us will set either ‘diet’ or ‘exercise’ as a resolution2 only 1-in-10 with a BMI of over 30 will successfully lose weight3.

Why does this happen? Where do our best intentions go wrong? Most importantly, how do we actually make our resolutions last? Let’s start by bringing some attention to some of the most common mistakes that crop up when we try to make positive changes in our lives:

The main reasons your resolutions fall by the wayside

1. You try to do too much, too fast

Woman trying to do too much

One of the most frequent mistakes we make is trying to make many big changes all at once. We want to become a different person overnight - someone who eats healthily, has a dazzling social life, exercises more, sleeps soundly, meditates, travels the world and is financially secure. All of these are worthy goals, but if you choose to focus on just one or two things that are really important, you’re much more likely to succeed.

2. You’re skipping straight to the end result

Big goals take time to achieve and the results are not always immediately visible. If you’re solely focused on the end result, it’s easy to become discouraged if your progress isn’t immediately obvious. This can lead to feelings of frustration and a higher likelihood of giving up altogether, resulting in a sense of failure.

3. You ask too much of yourself

If you’ve set a goal, like many of us have, to lose weight in January how quickly are you expecting to see results? Several kilos by the end of Jan? Reaching your ideal weight in time for Spring? You didn’t put on that weight in a month, so why expect to lose it in that timeframe? All you’re doing is putting pressure on yourself with an unrealistic goal.

There’s nothing more likely to send you to the biscuit tin than having unrealistic expectations of weight management that make you feel your efforts are wasted.

4. You’re not enjoying the journey

Skipping simple pleasures in the process of making changes is like rushing through your favourite book just to get to the last chapter. It’s quite similar to making life changes, if you only have the end goal in mind – say, losing weight – you might miss the satisfaction of discovering new flavours, the sense of connection when working out with a friend, or the lessons learned from overcoming challenges along the way.

If sticking to your resolution feels like a chore, you’ll probably miss out on the small wins and good stuff along the way.

Now that you’re aware of what to avoid when making positive changes, let's shift gears and explore what you can do to turn those resolutions into a realistic, achievable, enjoyable and mindful journey.

Selph's simple strategy to make this year different

If you think about the year ahead, there will probably be a lot that’s outside of your control (yes, even if you’re super organised). You might face challenges, stress, and other things that will get in the way. That’s just life and when this happens you have a choice as to how to deal with it.

This is when tapping into your core values is essential, because they help guide you towards the person you want to become. When you have a clear idea of your core values, they act as your north star and help you to find the opportunities and motivation to keep you on course.

1. Identify your core values: the foundation of change

Core values

Before embarking on your resolution journey, really take the time to identify your core values at this point of your life. What TRULY matters to you? Is it family? Personal growth? Adventure? Or is it something else? Why is this important to you? What does this mean to you? These values will serve you as a foundation and guide for setting meaningful and sustainable actions for the year.

2. Commit to small daily actions

Once your core values are clear, think about what actions you do when these values are met. This will help you to have a clear idea about which behaviours take you closer to what is important to you.

Make a list of small daily actions that align with your core values. For instance, if balance and joy are essential to you, incorporate activities that bring happiness into your daily routine.

Or, if health is one of your core values, what actions might take you closer to it? It might be having more fruit and veggies on a daily basis, setting an alarm to create a consistent night time routine, dancing in the living room to move your body or regularly connecting with a friend.

These small, consistent steps will lead to lasting changes without the pressure of immediate results or a sense of failure; particularly if you take notice and enjoy the simple pleasures of taking these small daily actions.

3. Cultivate a growth mindset

When you’re making lifestyle changes, cultivating a growth mindset is really important. Approach your journey with curiosity and self-compassion. Acknowledge that roadblocks are a natural part of the journey and provide an opportunity for learning. Challenge the ‘All or Nothing’ mindset by committing to tiny daily actions where you look for opportunities to redirect your journey.

4. Be mindful and stay present during your journey

Integrate mindfulness practices into your routine. Incorporate moments of meditation or mindful breathing to centre yourself during hectic times. Mindfulness not only helps you stay present in the moment but also acts as a powerful tool to improve your decision-making, reminding you of your deeper purpose.

Being mindful on your journey of making positive changes is a great way to acknowledge and be present in the small victories that we often overlook. Take a moment to pause and acknowledge your progress each day. Consider keeping a journal to write down these moments. Reflect on your achievements, no matter how small, it’ll foster a positive mindset and reinforce your commitment to the journey.

5. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small

Don’t forget to celebrate yourself. Did you meditate for 5 minutes each day in a week? Did you choose a healthy snack over the tempting bag of crisps? Celebrate it! Celebrating ourselves might seem silly or selfish but it’s not. It helps us to acknowledge our efforts, stay positive and keep the momentum going.

As you go through the ups and downs of the upcoming year, remember that New Year's resolutions are not just checkboxes to complete; they're like different chapters in your own growth story. If you identify your core values, commit to small daily actions, cultivate a growth mindset, and celebrate every win, big or small, you’re setting yourself up for success.

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